The city of Rayong on the eastern seaboard is often associated with industries and their environmental side effects. However, not everybody knows that Rayong boasts almost as many mountain bike trails as industrial estates. And the one I'm going to tell you about will definitely make you envy the bikers who live there!
Let's start by asking: How long does it take you to get to the singletrack closest to your home? If the answer hurts your feeling, what follows will add insult to the injury.
Ready for the pain? For Rayong residents, it's never more than 20 minutes by bike from any address within the city boundary!
Located on a plot of public woodland next to the downtown area, near the western end of the entertainment strip on Ratbamrung Road to be precise, the Sandy Forest Trail is currently the most popular training ground for local bikers.
But that isn't only because of its convenient location and the fact that it can be ridden any time of day, thanks to the thick canopy that shields bikers from the harsh sunlight 90% of the way. The 4.8km-long track, as its name suggests, has been laid in a wood occupying sandy coastal land, which means rain would never make its surface muddy. I was told by the local bikers that here it's even more fun to ride after rain because the sand will be nicely packed.
Yes, during this wet period of year while mountain bikers across the country are either sadly watching their rigs gathering dust at home or painstakingly washing the muck off their beloved bikes bit by bit if they were brave enough to take them out to the trail, riders in Rayong are enjoying mud-free singletrack rides every single day!
I was there last Thursday morning and met two groups of riders; the second came after the first had left. Both groups were friendly and eager to show me around on their favourite trail. They told me more people come in late afternoon. Weekdays or weekends, visitors will never have problem finding ride companions.
Another great thing about this trail is that the sandy ground is virtually free of thorn or any sharp object so you need not worry about getting a flat tyre unless you are haunted by a very bad karma from your previous life.
Since the area is relatively flat, the trail is perfect for a leisurely ride. Want something more challenging? Just put more power to the cranks! The faster you go, the more difficult it will be to navigate the narrow track that twists and turns through the wood which is home to monitor lizards, many of them more than a metre long.
Oh, and have I told you about the various "playthings" you'll find along the way, such as a U- and S-shaped wall rides, an elevated wooden path, jumps and a flowy section where momentum can carry you through over a series of mounds if you approach it at the right speed?
I lost a pair of shorts in the middle of the first round. On a short but pretty steep descent the crotch of my pants got stuck with the back of the saddle and the seam split all the way through. So don't underestimate this seemingly tame track.
Now I'm back in Bangkok and every time I look at my ripped pants I feel a pang in my heart. I know it's impossible but I wouldn't mind losing a pair everyday if there was one such trail in my neighbourhood.
Well, see you here again next Thursday. Until then, if you have questions, news or biking insights you wish to share, please feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to "Freewheel Bangkok" community page on Facebook.
Pongpet Mekloy is the Bangkok Post's travel editor and a confirmed mountain bike freak.
Join the Car Free Day
The Car Free Day mass rides are taking place at many provinces this Sunday, Sept 23. Are you taking part in the event?
If you haven't made up your mind, I recommend you take your bike and camera out to the street and join the fun because it will also give you the chance to win a jersey of the Muangthong Thani Cycling Club for free!
All you have to do is post a photo of yourself and your bike taken during the Sunday event on the Freewheel Bangkok Facebook page. If your picture earns the highest number of ''likes'' by noon of Sept 25, you win.
In case of a tie, the deadline will be extended by another hour, and another hour if needed, until we have a winner. The 3XL-size, long-sleeved jersey will be delivered to the winner's postal address in Thailand. It's that simple!
The Sandy Forest Trail, Rayong
GPS info: N 12 40.344E 101 14.064
Trail condition: Shaded, loose-surface, winding singletrack on a relatively flat terrain spiced up with a number of fun man-made obstacles.
Distance: The loop is 4.8km long. Feel free to ride as many rounds as your stamina allows.
Getting there: From the PMY intersection on Sukhumvit Road (Highway 3) that runs through the city, follow the road that goes southwards. In a few minutes, you'll find another intersection, turn right. A few blinks from there you'll see on the left-hand side a wooded area with a children playground. That's the trailhead.
Parking:You can park on the roadside in front of the playground.
Food & drinks: It's not a bad idea to bring a picnic basket. However, opposite the park there is a coffee shop.
What your family can enjoy while waiting: Children can have fun at the playground while accompanying mothers can look after them or just find a spot to sit and chill out.
Accommodation: Many choices are available in downtown Rayong, both city hotels and apartments that offer rooms for daily rental. On the same street as the woodland, drive eastward and you'll find many new hotels that charge only 600-900 bath per room per night.
Local contact: KhunYot of J.S. Bike Shop, tel 089-400-6554; Khun Yod of Rayong DH Café, tel 081-487-4374